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Total Employed Workers Fell Again in November as Savings and Incomes Fall

Total employed workers fell for the second month in a row in November, dropping nearly 400,000 workers below the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020. According…

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Total employed workers fell for the second month in a row in November, dropping nearly 400,000 workers below the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020. According to new employment data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, the current population survey shows employed workers fell to 158,470,000 in November, down 138,000 from October's total of 158,608,000. This continues a nine-month trend in which the total number of employed persons has moved sideways.

From March 2022 to November, the number of total employed persons has only increased by 12,000 people, rising from about 158.45 million to 158.47 million. With November’s drop, this also puts total employment in November below the peak of 158.8 million in February 2020. In other words, the household survey shows there are fewer employed people now than before the covid panic.

Yet, the headlines in the business press today told us that the “U.S. gained 263,000 jobs” in November and that “total employment” is now a million jobs above the February 2020 peak.

Those "total jobs" numbers come from the “establishment survey” which differs from the household survey in that the establishment survey measures jobs instead of workers. The household survey measures workers. Historically, the two numbers often track together, but there is a sizable gap between the two numbers in recent months. That is, since January, total jobs have grown considerably—showing an increase of 3.8 million jobs. Yet over that same time, the household survey has shown an increase of only 1.3 million employed persons. In other words, the two surveys together suggest much more growth in jobs than actual workers with jobs. Total jobs in the establishment survey has grown month-to-month in every month since late 2020. Yet, total employed workers has fallen (month over month) for four of the last eight months. 

unemp

One conclusion we can draw here is that fewer people are working more jobs to cover costs, and this would make sense given that disposable income, saving rates, and real wages are all falling. 

For example, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, disposable income is lower now than it was before the covid panic, coming in at $15.1 trillion. That sum was $15.2 trillion during February of 2020. This is a sizable departure from the trend in disposable income since 2014, and November's disposable income level is now $1 trillion below the trend line. 

trend

Meanwhile, the personal savings rate in October fell to 2.3 percent. That’s the second-lowest level recorded going back to 1959. The only month with a lower saving rate was July 2005.  Credit card debt, in contrast, reached new highs in November and is now well above its previous 2020 peak.

Workers and consumers are likely spending down whatever savings they have because wages, in spite of what the allegedly "hot" establishment-survey jobs numbers say, are not keeping up with price inflation. Since April 2021, Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation has repeatedly outpaced year-over-year growth in average hourly earnings. In November, wages grew by 5.09 percent, but the CPI grew by 7.7 percent (year over year) in October. Price inflation will have to be considerably lower in November than it was in October if there is going to be real wage growth for the month. If there does prove to be real wage growth in November—which is unlikely—it will be the first time in 20 months.  

wages

 

With fewer employed workers, though, why aren't we seeing the unemployment rate rise? After all, the unemployment rate in November remained at 3.7 percent, unchanged from October.

This can be partly explained by the fact that the workforce is shrinking. It is well known by now, for example, that Baby Boomers are ageing and many are retiring and leaving the workforce. Overall labor force participation is well down from its peak in the late 1990s. Yet retirement doesn't explain all of it. Even among workers age 25-54, labor force participation is down from the late 1990s, and is also down from late 2020 when prime-age participation peaked during the last boom in worker demand. At the same time, the total number of workers "not in the labor force" reached a 13-month high in November. This includes retirees, but also includes discouraged workers. In fact, the number of workers who report having left the work force but also "want a job now" totals more than 5.5 million. Altogether, it appears that declining workforce participation is indeed keeping the unemployment rate from rising, even as the total number of employed workers is falling. 

Nor does other economic data point to enough strength in the economy to keep job demand going. With home sales plummeting, savings falling, income dropping, and gross fixed capital turning negative, most signs point to an economic slowdown. 

The other big factor pointing toward recession is the yield curve, which has now inverted, pointing to a coming recession. In fact, inversions in the yield curve have a perfect record of predicting recessions in recent decades. As of late October, the spread between the ten-year and the three-month Treasurys is now negative, and it is now in deeper negative territory than at any other time since 2001, just prior to the start of the 2001 recession. 

yield

In spite of these indicators pointing toward recession, the Biden administration and the leadership at the Federal Reserve continue to point toward the job growth data as evidence of a strong economy. The good news here is that this could provide sufficient justification for the Federal Reserve to keep allowing interest rates to rise while allowing more assets to roll off the balance sheet. The Fed should be selling off far more than it is from its balance sheet, of course, but even the small reduction in Fed assets at least allows for some slight normalization in markets. That's all to the good. 

After all, once the jobs data does start to look undeniably bad, we can expect the Fed to immediately start looking for ways to once again return to quantitative easing and more easy money overall. More easy money is what Wall Street is praying for, but that would only bring a new wave of price inflation—whether in assets or consumer goods—in the manner of Arthur Burns's failed fight against inflation in the 1970s. What really needs to happen is for the Fed to lay off the easy money long enough for countless bubbles in stocks, real estate, tech, and countless so-far-unknown other sectors to deflate. We're not even close to that point in the current boom-bust cycle. 

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Royal Caribbean Brings Back Popular Event; Adult Favorite Still Missing

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn’t been brought back.

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The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn't been brought back.

In the early days of Royal Caribbean Group's (RCL) - Get Free Report return from its 15-month covid pandemic shutdown, cruising looked a lot different. Ships sailed with limited capacities, masks were required in most indoor areas, and social distancing was a thing.

Keeping people six feet apart made certain aspects of taking a cruise impossible. Some were made easier by the lower passenger counts. For example, all Royal Caribbean Windjammer buffets required reservations to keep the crowds down, but in practice that system was generally not needed because capacities were never reached.

Dance parties and nightclub-style events had to be held on the pool decks or in larger spaces, and shows in the big theaters left open seats between parties traveling together. In most cases, accommodations were made and events more or less happened in a sort of normal fashion.

A few very popular events were not possible, however, in an environment where keeping six feet between passengers was a goal. Two of those events -- the first night balloon drop and the adult "Crazy Quest" game show -- simply did not work with social-distancing requirements.

One of those popular events has now made its comeback while the second appears to still be missing (aside from a few one-off appearances).

TheStreet

The Quest Is Still Mostly Missing

In late November, Royal Caribbean's adult scavenger hunt, "The Quest," (sometimes known as "Crazy Quest") began appearing on select sailings. And at the time it appeared like it was coming back across the fleet: A number of people posted about the return of the interactive adult game show in an unofficial Royal Caribbean Facebook group.

It first appeared during a Wonder of the Seas transatlantic sailing.

Since, then its appearances continue to be spotty and it has not returned on a fleetwide basis. This might not be due to any covid-related issues directly, but covid may play a role.

On some ships, Studio B, which hosts "The Quest," has been used for show rehearsals. That has been more of an issue with the trouble Royal Caribbean has had in getting new crew members onboard. And while that staffing issue has been improving, some shows may not have had full complements of performers, so using the space for rehearsal has been a continuing need.

In addition, while covid rules have gone away, covid has not, and ill cast members may force the need for more rehearsals.

Royal Caribbean has not publicly commented on when (or whether) "The Quest" will make a full comeback

Royal Caribbean Balloon Drops Are Back   

Before the pandemic, Royal Caribbean kicked off many of its cruises with a balloon drop on the Royal Promenade. That went away because it forced people to cluster as music was performed and, at midnight, balloons fell from the ceiling.

Now, the cruise line has brought back the balloon drop, albeit with a twist. The drop itself is appearing on activity schedules for upcoming Royal Caribbean cruises. Immediately after it, however, the cruise line has added something new: "The Big Recycle Balloon Pickup."

Most of the dropped balloons get popped during the drop. Previously, crewmembers picked up the used balloons. Now, the cruise line has made it a "fun" passenger activity.

"Get environmentally friendly as you help us gather our 100% biodegradable balloons in recycle baskets," the cruise line shared in its app. 

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How far could UK property prices drop and should investors be concerned?

The more pessimistic analysts believe that UK house prices could drop by as much as 30% over the next couple of years.…
The post How far could UK property…

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The more pessimistic analysts believe that UK house prices could drop by as much as 30% over the next couple of years. Property prices leapt alongside most other asset classes over the long bull market that ran relatively uninterrupted over the 13 year period from the start of the recovery from the international financial crisis in 2009 and last year.

Average prices across the country almost doubled from £154,500 in March 2009 to just under £296,000 in October last year, when the market hit its most recent record high. Global stock markets had been in a downward spiral for almost a year while property prices kept climbing.

Source: PropertyData

However, a combination of rising interest rates, up from 0.1% in late 2021 to 3.5% in January 2023 and further hikes expected this year, soaring inflation putting pressure on household budgets and nerves around a recession has seen house prices ease. There still not far off their record highs of late 2022 but the trend is downward.

chart

Source: BankofEngland

The big question for homeowners and property investors is just how far could UK residential property prices drop over the next couple of years? How long prices might take to recover from a drop is another important unknown.

First time buyers struggling to get onto the property ladder may welcome a significant drop in UK house prices. Even if higher interest rates mean monthly mortgage costs don’t change much, lower sales prices should reduce the minimum deposits required to secure a mortgage.

However, for anyone who currently owns a home, especially if purchased in the past couple of years towards the top of the market, a significant drop in valuation would be extremely unwelcome. That is particularly the case for home owners at risk of falling into negative equity, which means the market value of their property is lower than the outstanding sum due on the mortgage.

Falling house prices, if the decline is steep, could also create a wider economic crisis and spill over into other parts of the economy and financial markets.

But not everyone agrees UK house prices will drop by anywhere near 30%. Let’s explore the factors that would affect the residential property market over 2023 and beyond and different opinions on how serious a market slump could be. As well as the wider potential consequences that could result if the dive in home valuations turns out to be in line with more negative forecasts.

How much will UK house prices fall by?

The short answer to that question is that we don’t know but the most pessimistic outlook is for drops of up to 30% over the next couple of years. However, there are a number of factors that mean there is a high chance valuations will slide by less. But let’s look at the negative scenario first.

A 30% drop in home valuations sounds like a lot and it is. However, against the backdrop of the last couple of years that kind of fall looks a little less extreme. Prices are up 28% since April 2019 and a 30% fall would take the average price of a home in the UK to around £210,000, where it was in 2016. A less severe 20% drop in prices would see the average price settle at around £235,000, where it was just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Bank of England dropping interest rates to just 0.1%.

Mid-term interest rates are likely to have the biggest influence on house prices. At the BoE’s current 3.5% base rate, the best mortgage deals available are 2 years fixed at 4.8% compared to 1% deals available until recently. At an LTV of 60% on a £400,000 mortgage, that would push the monthly rate up to £2300 a month from £1500 a month.

For some borrowers, that is likely to prove problematic. It is also likely to mean lower demand for properties from buyers who might have otherwise decided to move up the property ladder and first time buyers. A drop in demand at higher price brackets due to affordability thresholds being passed will see property prices fall.

Will demand drop enough to lead to a 30% fall? That depends on factors that are currently unknown. How high interest rates go will have a huge influence and that will depend on inflation. There are signs inflation is easing and today the Fed’s preferred gauge for inflation, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, rose 5.0% in December from a year earlier. That was slower than the 5.5% 12-month gain as of November and the lowest level since September 2021.

In the UK, inflation has also eased from 11.1% year-on-year in October to 10.5% in December. It’s still much higher than in the USA but will hopefully now maintain a consistent downward trend helped by easing energy prices.

There are hopes the Fed will pull back on further interest rate rises from March and that would set a tone that the Bank of England may well follow with a slight delay. The Fed’s base rate is also already higher than in the UK at 4.25% to 4.5%.

If interest rates and, more importantly, mortgage rates do not rise by more than 1% from where they are today it is unlikely valuation drops of as much as 30% eventuate. But if they did what would the consequences be?

What happens if UK house prices fall 30%?

The good news is that even a house price fall as extreme as 30% would be unlikely to lead to systematic issues in the UK’s financial services sector. More people own their homes outright than have a mortgage – 8.8 million to 6.8 million homes. Lloyds Bank, one of the UK’s biggest mortgage lenders recently reported the average LTV of its mortgage portfolio is just 40%.

Even if average LTV is a little higher for other banks, a wave of defaults is unlikely to threaten their stability and infect other areas of financial markets or the wider economy. Mortgage lenders are also reluctant to repossess homes they’ve lent against as it’s an expensive process for them. They will do as much as they can to work with borrowers who are struggling to meet increased mortgage payments.

What does falling property prices mean for investors?

For property investors, it’s really a case of if rental income will continue to cover mortgage payments, or get close enough to mean the investment still adds up. If mortgage payments are likely to exceed realistic rental income over the next few years investors may consider selling up. Unless the property was purchased in the last 2-3 years, that could still mean walking away with a reasonable return.

For investors in the wider financial markets, it seems unlikely that falling property prices, even if up to 30% is knocked off valuations, will see serious contagion spread and spark a crisis.

It’s not impossible that UK property prices could fall by as much as 30% over the next couple of years as a result of higher interest rates and tighter household budgets but the likelihood is the average drop will be less. And in the worst case scenario, wider fallout should be limited. A repeat of the systemic crash that led to the 2008 financial crisis does not seem like a real prospect. Lenders are well capitalised and the system looks strong enough to cope.

The post How far could UK property prices drop and should investors be concerned? first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Popular Royal Caribbean Event Still Missing; Another Returns

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn’t been brought back.

Published

on

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn't been brought back.

In the early days of Royal Caribbean Group's (RCL) - Get Free Report return from its 15-month covid pandemic shutdown, cruising looked a lot different. Ships sailed with limited capacities, masks were required in most indoor areas, and social distancing was a thing.

Keeping people six feet apart made certain aspects of taking a cruise impossible. Some were made easier by the lower passenger counts. For example, all Royal Caribbean Windjammer buffets required reservations to keep the crowds down, but in practice that system was generally not needed because capacities were never reached.

Dance parties and nightclub-style events had to be held on the pool decks or in larger spaces, and shows in the big theaters left open seats between parties traveling together. In most cases, accommodations were made and events more or less happened in a sort of normal fashion.

A few very popular events were not possible, however, in an environment where keeping six feet between passengers was a goal. Two of those events -- the first night balloon drop and the adult "Crazy Quest" game show -- simply did not work with social-distancing requirements.

One of those popular events has now made its comeback while the second appears to still be missing (aside from a few one-off appearances).

TheStreet

The Quest Is Still Mostly Missing

In late November, Royal Caribbean's adult scavenger hunt, "The Quest," (sometimes known as "Crazy Quest") began appearing on select sailings. And at the time it appeared like it was coming back across the fleet: A number of people posted about the return of the interactive adult game show in an unofficial Royal Caribbean Facebook group.

It first appeared during a Wonder of the Seas transatlantic sailing.

Since, then its appearances continue to be spotty and it has not returned on a fleetwide basis. This might not be due to any covid-related issues directly, but covid may play a role.

On some ships, Studio B, which hosts "The Quest," has been used for show rehearsals. That has been more of an issue with the trouble Royal Caribbean has had in getting new crew members onboard. And while that staffing issue has been improving, some shows may not have had full complements of performers, so using the space for rehearsal has been a continuing need.

In addition, while covid rules have gone away, covid has not, and ill cast members may force the need for more rehearsals.

Royal Caribbean has not publicly commented on when (or whether) "The Quest" will make a full comeback

Royal Caribbean Balloon Drops Are Back   

Before the pandemic, Royal Caribbean kicked off many of its cruises with a balloon drop on the Royal Promenade. That went away because it forced people to cluster as music was performed and, at midnight, balloons fell from the ceiling.

Now, the cruise line has brought back the balloon drop, albeit with a twist. The drop itself is appearing on activity schedules for upcoming Royal Caribbean cruises. Immediately after it, however, the cruise line has added something new: "The Big Recycle Balloon Pickup."

Most of the dropped balloons get popped during the drop. Previously, crewmembers picked up the used balloons. Now, the cruise line has made it a "fun" passenger activity.

"Get environmentally friendly as you help us gather our 100% biodegradable balloons in recycle baskets," the cruise line shared in its app. 

Read More

Continue Reading

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